By MARSHA SHULER
Advocate Capitol News Bureau
The Jindal administration
supports a proposed partnership under which Our Lady of the
State Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Alan Levine said the public-private partnership is the model the state should be pursuing given the financial outlook for the LSU public hospital system.
“The dollars are just not going to be there for these public hospitals as there has been in the past,” Levine told the state Senate Finance Committee.
The Jindal administration
supports the closure of LSU’s
“How much would the state be responsible for in the public-private partnership?” asked Senate President Pro Tem Sharon Broome, D-Baton Rouge, in whose district the Earl K. Long facility resides.
Levine replied that part of the current partnership discussion involves the shift of available uninsured care dollars to the new enterprise.
There will be construction costs associated with space for
medical care and teaching programs at the
“But that will be less expensive for the state” than building a new hospital with an estimated $350 million to $500 million cost, Levine said.
LSU has said about $120 million would be needed.
Levine said part of the discussion between LSU and the
“The students will get a great learning experience. There are services offered at OLOL that are not offered at EKL,” Levine said.
Broome asked whether Levine thought that the EKL and OLOL had complimentary missions of medical education and treating the poor.
“I believe so,” replied Levine.
Broome said people have expressed concern about both teaching possibilities and indigent care. She said she wants more discussion with parties involved “to minimize any negative impact this merger may bring.”
By Bill Barrow
Rep. Rick Nowlin doesn't hail
Nowlin is proposing legislation that would block the state from buying or expropriating land intended for the medical complex until its financing proposal is approved by the Legislature's Joint Budget Committee.
House Bill 780 is scheduled for a hearing today in the House Health & Welfare Committee, as the state continues preparations for securing 70-plus acres for a state hospital and the planned adjacent U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs medical complex.
The bill presents the latest challenge for state and Louisiana State University System officials who have planned for a $1.2 billion, 424-bed facility for several years but have yet to secure financing. The governance and business model also remain under scrutiny.
"LSU does a lot of good things with health care and education, but this is bigger than that," Nowlin said. "We shouldn't take people's homes and businesses until we at least know we can finish the project and that we can operate it successfully."
The state Office of Facilities Planning and Control has not taken a public position on the bill. Director Jerry Jones is expected to testify about "the practical aspects of the bill," spokesman Michael DiResto said.
--- Cost implications ---
Dr. Fred Cerise, LSU vice president for health care, said state officials are "concerned about the impact the bill would have on the progress made in terms of land acquisition."
"Delays in early phases such as land acquisition will push the entire project timeline back, with cost implications, and the city can't afford to wait any longer" to replace the shuttered Charity Hospital, Cerise said.
The bill would not stop preparatory work, including title searches and negotiations with landowners.
Nowlin said he did not introduce the measure on behalf of any particular interests, but he has the support of preservationist groups that want the state to gut Charity and rebuild within its shell.
The Foundation for Historical Louisiana, among other organizations, argues that route would be faster and cheaper, while preserving the lower Mid-City neighborhood, which features vacant, blighted parcels and architecturally significant properties, some eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.
"Don't take people's private property unless you have a financial plan in place," foundation executive Sandra Stokes said.
She cited the never-completed final phase of the
--- Federal hospital excluded ---
As written, Nowlin's proposal
would apply only to the state hospital's projected footprint, bound by
That land now sits vacant. Opponents of the state's plans have said the worst possible scenario is the veterans hospital proceeding as planned with the state never building -- or long delaying -- its hospital, leaving a gulf between the VA and the rest of the existing medical district.
The bill does not specifically define what would constitute a "financing plan." Nowlin said he intends to include both the initial capital budget and a viable operating plan. To some extent, the distinction is moot, because the construction budget depends on securing a minimum of $400 million in bonds that investors almost certainly would not buy without a worthy business plan.
LSU Health Sciences Center-Shreveport and Sci-Port:
June 2 is the deadline to register for the lecture by Dr. Kathryn Hamilton, who will discuss how food appearance and aroma affect appetites. Chef John Strand, of Accents Personal Chef Service, will offer a cooking demonstration in conjunction with the lecture. Space is limited. The cost is $5 for nonmembers. Sci-Port members get in free. The event includes a question-and-answer session, an informal reception and heavy hors d'oeuvres.
By Laura McKnight
HOUMA - The warm weather, friendly people and unbeatable cuisine enticed Dr. Keith Kellum and his family to plant roots in Houma nine years ago, a move that continues to make the ophthalmologist feel fortunate.
"We love it here," said Kellum,
who grew up in
The eye doctor now sees the troubled economy as an opportunity to give back to the community that embraced him.
He and optometrist Lisa Mitchell, who works with Kellum at The Kellum Eye Center
"We've been thinking about what we can do to help out in the community," Kellum said.
"If I'm doing a cosmetic surgery on one person I can't do a functional surgery on another," he said.
Doctors often travel to foreign countries to offer free medical services, which is nice, Kellum said, but needs exist nearby as well.
"We've got a lot of people here that need help," he said.
Kellum and Mitchell plan to see about two patients per week, completely free of charge, as part of their new outreach program.
Anyone who lacks health insurance and can not afford to pay for eye care can sign up for the free services. Kellum said he has no set number of free patients to be taken, but the numbers will be limited to avoid overcrowding his practice.
"I could see 200 patients a week with no insurance," Kellum said. "We can't help everybody, but we can help some."
There are no income guidelines to sign on for free care.
"Most people tend to be very honorable and honest," Kellum said. "If they need help, we want to help them."
The eye clinic will treat patients receiving free services as they would any other patients, Kellum said. For example, free patients will not have to wait longer for appointments or other services.
"Nobody will know the difference - except our billing staff," Kellum said.
Along with free eye exams and eyeglasses, The Kellum Eye Center plans to connect patients in need with
free medications. Kellum said he could start
patients off with free samples and then staff can help them access free
medications through pharmaceutical companies. Most pharmaceutical companies
offer free medications to uninsured customers of certain income levels. The
The ophthalmologist plans to offer free surgery as needed, including surgeries Kellum typically does in his office, such as some eyelid surgeries and procedures to remove sties and growths on the eye.
Some patients may
be referred to
The only services a patient might have to pay for include procedures at Chabert, which could be free or charged on a sliding scale based on income, and laboratory testing, a service not often needed, Kellum said.
The free eye care could help patients gain or keep jobs, Kellum said.
"A lot of people lose their ability to function if they can't see," he said.
The eye care also could help some salvage their sight by catching glaucoma early; a lot of people with glaucoma don't know they have it, Kellum said.
Just receiving eyeglasses can make people into safer drivers and more effective workers.
"Something as simple as that can make all the difference," he said.
The nation's economic woes helped inspire the program, but the center plans to continue offering free services as long as participants need help in paying for eye care, no matter the country's economic situation, Kellum said.
"We just want to give back to the community a little more than we have been," he said.
The ophthalmologist, who attended medical school in
Kellum and his family quickly adapted to the local climate.
"Growing up in
Kellum said he and his family also enjoy the locals, who he describes as warm, friendly and helpful.
"I have some of the best patients in the world," he said. "I get offers to go fishing at least twice a week."
And of course, there's the cuisine.
"Food in south
Other members of his family, including his wife's family,
plan to join the Kellums in
Kellum's daughter, an 8-year-old spelling-bee whiz, was born here, "so we have roots here now," he said.
For information or to sign up for free services, call
By MARSHA SILLS
Advocate Acadiana bureau
And in July, it will open another satellite clinic in
The centers act as a safety net for those living in medically underserved urban and rural areas and are eligible for federal funding to help offset the costs of caring for the uninsured.
Recently, SWLA received a federal infusion of $1.8 million to defray the cost of services for the uninsured.
Of the center’s projected 9,000 patients, at least 40 percent are non-paying, according to Eligha Guillory Jr., director of development and outreach for the center.
The clinics offer primary care and other health services to both the insured and uninsured, who pay on a sliding fee scale based on their income.
The need for affordable health services in southwest
“We try to increase access and decrease the barriers to health care,” Guillory said.
SWLA’s satellite location in
Acadia Parish in
The entire parish of Acadia is a designated health-care
professional shortage area, as is the northeast portion of Lafayette Parish
served by the
SWLA has been operating for 25 years and made the decision
to expand in
By JANET ADAMY
Conservative groups are stepping up the battle against Democrats' proposed health-system overhaul with advertising campaigns contending that the changes could result in long waits for surgery and difficulty obtaining prescription drugs.
A conservative group will begin running a new ad campaign, which equates Democrats' health care reform with long waits. The ad highlights the direction Republicans will likely take the health care reform debate, Janet Adamy explains.
Americans for Prosperity Foundation, a conservative
advocacy organization, on Wednesday plans to launch a $1.7 million
television-advertising campaign that negatively likens the
Another group, Conservatives for Patients' Rights, which
opposes a government-run health system, plans to begin airing 30-minute
segments on Sunday featuring unpaid commentary by patients and doctors from
The conservative groups' campaigns seek to liken the
Democrats' proposed system to those in countries where the government has
more involvement in the health system. Many experts don't believe such
systems offer worse care than the current
In the ad campaign by Americans for Prosperity Foundation, a Canadian woman, who also was not paid, says: "As my brain tumor got worse, my government health-care system told me I had to wait six months to see a specialist."
Congress is considering some changes that could increase the government's involvement in the health-care system. President Barack Obama and some Democrats want to create a public health-insurance plan that would help cover the uninsured and compete with private insurers, an idea that has met strong resistance from Republicans.
But leading Democratic lawmakers drafting legislation to
expand health-care coverage and reduce its cost have said they wouldn't seek
to emulate either the Canadian or
Americans for Prosperity's ad is slated to run in eight
states that have lawmakers seen as influential in the health-care debate:
Conservatives for Patients' Rights began airing advertisements
in March, but it is intensifying its effort with a 30-minute spot that will
air on Sunday in the
By RITA BEAMISH and FRANK BASS
Already down more than one quarter of her staff, Raevsky managed the recent, limited swine flu outbreak by
stretching her team. But a major, sustained outbreak would overwhelm the
county, she said, echoing the concern of many local health departments that
are the community bulwarks against disease and health emergencies in the
Swine flu fell short of a full-blown international crisis, but revealed the precarious state of local health departments struggling with cutbacks as well as increased demand from people who have lost jobs and medical insurance.
Stung by the lean economy, 13 states and
"We won't be able to do it," Raevsky said. She said getting vaccine to everyone would require shutting down all other services, plus pulling workers from other departments.
A review by the U.S. Health and Human Services Department in January noted great strides in preparedness but said many shortfalls remain. They include the ability to maintain public health functions such as food safety and daily needs during a pandemic, and the capacity to meet surges in health care demand and to strategically close schools.
State capabilities vary. But among some local departments that rely on a combination of federal, state and local revenues, an Associated Press review found troubling signs:
_Twenty-nine public health workers in
"Who will be around to do these things?" she said.
_Nationwide, officials have reported more than more than 6,700 swine flu cases, and 12 deaths.
"We have good plans and we're exercising them,"
said Matthew A. Stefanak, health commissioner of
_Federal investment in local emergency planning since the
Last year at least 10,000 local and state health department jobs were lost to attrition and layoffs, including at laboratories that identify disease strains, according to surveys by the state and territorial group and the National Association of County and City Health Officials.
An annual flu-shot clinic no longer comes to town hall in
_People calling for routine immunizations now reach a
recording saying the
Ann Cappabianca, one of the remaining nurses, scrambles to track communicable disease and tuberculosis cases. "We just can't get it all done. You try to focus on the most important thing at the moment," she said.
Worst is having to make cuts
without "enough ability to assess the needs of my community," said
Bob England, the health director of
Public health departments will get some help from this year's stimulus spending of $1 billion for prevention and wellness efforts.
But it will take years to bring local health agencies to
the point where they can fight a sustained, widespread pandemic, said Richard
Hamburg, a lobbyist at the nonprofit Trust for
A report from the group in December found emergency planning gaps in areas such as rapid disease detection, food safety and "surge capacity" to quickly scale up equipment, staff and supplies to meet a major outbreak.
Dan Sosin, head of emergency response at the Centers for Disease Control and Preparedness, praised the federal swine flu response, but acknowledged that public health officials face "capacity issues in terms of ongoing resources and funding."
"We could spend more money," he said. "We could use more than we have."
The CDC's acting director, Richard Besser, told Congress last month the government is concerned about states being too short-staffed to conduct required emergency exercises.
The main fund for local health emergency planning after the Sept. 11 attacks, the federal Public Health Emergency Preparedness program, has dropped nearly one-third since a 2006 peak of almost $1 billion, according to CDC figures. The money had included a special three-year congressional allocation for pandemic flu preparation that ran out last year.
President Barack Obama now is asking Congress for $1.5 billion to fight swine flu.
A second fund to help local agencies plan for public health emergencies, the Hospital Preparedness Program, has fallen nearly a quarter from $457 million in the 2006 budget year.
Decreases in the Public Health Emergency Preparedness
program were most significant in
Sherin, president of the advocacy group American Association of Public Health Physicians, questioned longer-term capabilities for lab and field work in his state and elsewhere.
"In the event of a real emergency, these systems have capacity problems," he said.
Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, a nonprofit lobbying group, said that after the federal emergency buildup, "We didn't complete the job and we didn't make the system sustainable. Our ability to manage more than one thing, or scale up fast is really worrisome."
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